“Deaf, proud, and loud!” – Young Deaf adults demand recognition

The recent increase of the Deaf community in the mainstream media has begun to change mainstream society’s lack of awareness of the Deaf community – Switched at Birth has been renewed for a 5th season, and America’s Next Top Model 2015 saw the first Deaf winner in Nyle DiMarco – and yet in their goals for 2020 the National Association of the Deaf lists such a basic aim as to “change the society’s perception of people who use ASL to one that recognizes us as a unique community with our own language and culture.”

The movement for Deaf rights to be recognized and accepted is constantly continuing. (Check out the NAD’s Vision 2020 Strategic Plan for more information!) This is not only occurring in the mainstream, but also through grassroots and individual efforts. One such individual is a woman who goes by “Ren” on YouTube. Rooted In Rights has previously discussed Ren’s work to increase awareness of the Deaf community, particularly the lives of young Deaf people.

In May of 2015, Ren posted a video of her performing her original poem, “Eleven Things You Should Know About Deaf People.” The poem is verbally spoken, rather than signed, and contains a message deliberately directed towards an audience of hearing people. What follows is a breakdown of damaging stereotypes and stigma directed towards Deaf people by mainstream society, contained in just under four minutes. Ren recites lines she is told by people who do not understand her identity or Deaf culture, such as, “You know, sometimes I totally forget you’re deaf,” and “You’re so lucky you can speak.” Through her evocative language and restrained frustration, Ren refuses to accept these stereotypes, deliberately forges her own identity, and demands it be accepted. Ren states, “I tell someone I’m deaf. She says, ‘I’m so sorry.’ I don’t want your pity, but when I ask you, ‘What’d you say?’ don’t tell me, ‘Never mind’, don’t cast me to the side, because I’m not broken and I don’t need to be fixed,” concluding, “I’m Deaf, proud, and loud! Can you hear me now?”

This video may begin with a commercial which was not chosen by or for the benefit of Rooted in Rights.

Spoken word is not the only medium through which Ren communicates Deaf culture. Another channel, Ren and Keely, is dedicated to the American Sign Language Interpretations of popular songs she creates with another woman, Keely. Lighter in nature than Ren’s poetry, the videos created by Ren and Keely offer a refreshing glimpse of young women having fun dancing to music, reinforcing the fact that there are more similarities than differences between young hearing people and young Deaf people.

This video may begin with a commercial which was not chosen by or for the benefit of Rooted in Rights.

Emily Pate is a third-year student at Seattle University interested in Strategic Communications, learning Spanish, and working with non-profits. Her work for Rooted In Rights is focused on discussing current events in the community of people with disabilities. Her experience previous to Rooted In Rights includes writing broadcasts for KBOO radio in Portland, OR, and managing a neighborhood blog in the Seattle community. In addition to work, Emily enjoys drawing, spending time with her friends and family, and backpacking.